The lectin-like protein 1 in Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 mediates tissue-specific adherence to vaginal epithelium and inhibits urogenital pathogens
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The probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 has been documented to survive implantation onto the vaginal epithelium and interfere with urogenital pathogens. However, the molecular mechanisms involved are largely unknown. Here, we report for the first time the construction of dedicated knock-out mutants in L. rhamnosus GR-1 to enable the study of gene functions. In a search for genes responsible for the adherence capacity of L. rhamnosus GR-1, a genomic region encoding a protein with homology to lectin-like proteins was identified. Phenotypic analyses of the knock-out mutant of L. rhamnosus GR-1 revealed a two-fold decreased adhesion to the vaginal and ectocervical epithelial cell lines compared to wild-type. In contrast, the adhesion to gastro-intestinal epithelial (Caco2) and endocervical cell lines (Hela and End1/E6E7) was not drastically affected by the mutation, suggesting that the LGR-1-Llp1 lectins mediates tissue tropism. The purified LGR-1-Llp1 protein also inhibited biofilm formation and adhesion of uropathogenic Escherichia coli. For the first time, an important role for a novel lectin-like protein in the adhesion capacity and host cell-specific interaction of a vaginal probiotic Lactobacillus strain has been discovered, with an additional role in pathogen inhibition.